Tennis: Helpless Henman

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A Marvellous week for the British game came to an end yesterday when both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, the No 1 and 2 players respectively, lost in the semi-finals of tournaments. Henman was beaten by the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov here while Rusedski went down to Michael Chang, the world No 2, in Signapore.

After so many lean years for home players on the ATP tour, the possibility of having two in singles finals in the same week seemed to be beyond wildest expectations. However, both have been in combative mood and it needed players who have won Grand Slam titles to stop them.

Kafelnikov, the French Open champion, had a point to prove to Henman and the 22-year-old from Oxford was dispatched in straight sets 6-1, 6- 3 in the pounds 500,000 event.

At Wimbledon Henman had upset Kafelnikov in the first round but never looked like repeating that, going down in 48 minutes to the second seed.

The Russian needed just 23 minutes to take the first set, capitalising on a series of Henman errors and some powerful play from the baseline to win five games in a row.

Henman put up more of a fight in the second set, keeping the world No 5 waiting until the fifth game for a break of serve.

The Russian broke Henman's serve again in the ninth game to reach his eighth final of the year and equal Austrian Thomas Muster's record for the most singles wins in 1996 at 66. Kafelnikov now meets Arnaud Boetsch in the final after the Frenchman beat fifth-seeded Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Rusedski's 7-6, 6-3 defeat to Chang, the top seed from the United States, was the third time this season that he has lost at the semi-final stage - the others were in Sydney and Nottingham.

Rusedski had his chances in the first set but was finally outplayed by some brilliant passing and cross-court shots. "It was a very tight match. A few points here and there made a tremendous difference,'' Chang said. "I was fortunate to be able to get out of the tie-breaker. Overall, it was a very close game, a very tough match," said Chang, who is attempting to win his 11th Asian title.

"Michael proved today why he is the No 2. He plays the big points well," Rusedski, ranked 84, said.